Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's A Wrap: 2009
After loading up yesterday, I drove to the South Shore site only to find it frozen over. So, back to the north shore and the McKinley Beach area. It was a gloomy day as I dragged the Cetus over the snow and inside the snow fences.
The pictures don't show it, but there was a surf to 4 feet running in on an onshore wind of about 15+ knots. I only had to share the site with a fellow with a metal detector and what must have been well insulated boots (note the flag).
The Cetus performed well, and the skeg worked just fine. I only came in when I did because the fine sleet in the air was peppering my eye balls when I went to windward. I did manage to do some mini surfing and practice some low braces. It wasn't a bad way to end the paddling year.
I hope you all can be with folks you love as we celebrate the new year/decade. I wish you good health.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Coping With Winter:
Plan for Summer
I recently received an e mail from Kelly blades (of P&H fame) reminding me that the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium is coming up in about 7 months. Although that may seem a long way off, it was just what I needed to lift me from my winter blues. I have always found that planning something gives me that delicious feeling of anticipation that carries me through the cold times.

So, I am looking forward to Canoecopia (JB, you going to make the reservations?) in Madison. Everyone shows up there to talk paddling. I get to work a desk, sometimes do intros for talks and what ever the Boss tells me to do. Just being there lets me know that warm water will soon be here.

Weekend after the 4th of July is the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium (Hey, Nancy, get the site up), and the Grand Marais one the week after that. In between we get to do a few days of camping on the souther shore of Lake Superior. What's not to like.

That just leaves coping with January and February. So, Lady Linda and I will be on a 10 day cruise in warm waters, including a visit to Belize. I may not get to post (if I can, I will), so let me wish for you what I wish for my family: a happy and healthy new year.

Paddle safe...

Monday, December 28, 2009

(post #2 for today)
It Was a Privilege
It is hard to explain to others the experience of being a doctor. The way I practiced led me to be a scientist, social worker, psychologist, friend and spiritual confident. Patient's allowed me into the most intimate corners of their lives, and we trusted one another.

I remember one patient who first came to me many many years ago. He was in his fifties, had a heart condition and a single request: to keep him alive long enough to see his grand daughter graduate high school. We worked together to make that happen, and he saw her graduate. That led to another request and another, and he lived to walke her down the isle.

This morning's paper says he was 92 when he died peacefully. It was my privilege to have been his doctor for part of that long life.

Paddle safe...
Honor Roll #2
P&H/Brian/Jon at Rutabaga

(unexpected dividend)
As you know, I recently took delivery of a Cetus which, as it turned out, had a defective skeg control. Brian Day and P&H immediately set out to make things right. We picked a time and met at Rutabaga about a week ago and, in very little time, Brian had the old control box out and a new one glassed in place.

When we arrived for the fix, Jon had the work bay heated up for us, and that made things go faster and feel more pleasant. Many thanks all around.

While I was sans a skeg, I paddled the boat several times and gradually found that I missed the skeg less and less. My technique improved as I made friends with the boat that, as one might expect, didn't paddle the same as my Romany. Brian made an interesting comment about white water paddlers liking the way the boat paddled. That made sense as I had a bit of the same feeling in the Cetus as I've had paddling a white water craft. Those little buggers don't behave like sea kayaks.

Now, I am waiting for the chill factor to moderate so I can get back out, with or without the skeg down.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Honor Roll: KokatatActually, that's my grandson, Joseph. Who wants to look at a dry suit? But Kokatat did provide excellent service including pressure testing, new gaskets and delivery right on the button. So kudos to them. More honor roll candidates to follow.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Families are gathering. It has snowed outside, and a muffled silence announces that many people are staying in. WISN is playing carols, one after another. We have exchanged gifts with our neighbor. Many beautiful cards, many with family photos, are lined up in our dining room. For the Christian world, it is Christmas; and everything feels different.

Everyone seems to have lightened up, and a warm friendliness washes over the land. Everyone (except Derrick) is wishing everyone, "Merry Christmas." How cool would it be if it were always like this?

So, before the magic of the season reverts to our every day push and shove, please accept my wish that you and yours have a wonderful holiday and good health in the new year.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Looking For
Mr./Ms. All

Many of you will be getting clothes for Christmas, and a whole lot of those clothes won't fit quite right. Some will have pants legs way too long and some sleeves to short. Why? Because those garments will have been made for someone else. In fact, this some one else seems to be so important a person that more clothes are made for him (her) than any one else in the universe.

I don't know who this guy is or what makes him so important. I do know that he has unusually long legs and a tiny waist for his height. He even has unusual color preferences. I sure would like to meet him and see if all those clothes really fit him, because they sure as hell never fit me.

So, Mr. All, if you are out there, please contact me. I want to know why that one size fits only you.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lessons Learned/Re-Learned
Winter Paddling
I've often shown the view above on this site, and it is obvious that winter has begun here. Last Sunday I went to meet the group for coffee and took this shot of Sweet Sue as she came ashore all iced over.A few of the paddlers assumed she had splashed a lot and that that explained all the ice. Maybe so. Maybe not. I went out alone yesterday (dry suit back from Kokatat, but I digress) in perfectly calm water and returned in a similar state of mimicking a Popsicle. There were some problems of which I was unaware while on the water; problems that could have been a real danger to me:

1. My short tow line was iced shut. I could not get it open until I had the boat in the garage and things thawed out.

2. The quick release on my long tow (which I carry around my waist) was also frozen. Had I towed someone and had to make an emergency release......oh, well.

3. The plastic closures on my pfd were frozen, and I was unable to get the radio out until I got home and thawed the vest. Had I gone over and been unable to get back in (or lost the boat) I would not have been able to broadcast a may day. All this, moind you, without ever being so much as sprayed with lake water.

I need to remember the added dangers of winter paddling--especially alone--and reassess my solo outings. Just look what the ice did to JB's boat.Or, maybe it was just glad to see Sweet Sue.

Paddle safe...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Some boats feel more stable when weighted down with gear, and some track better when lower in the water. For day paddling it makes no sense to pack your tent and pots and pans aboard just to improve your ride. So, a local fellow came up with the Paddlers Partner tm, a portable and adjustable method of trimming or adding ballast to the boat. First you insert the bracket (athwart ship) shown above. This one is in a NDK Greenlander's day hatch. Next...
add the bottle which locks into place (so I am told) with or without the (optional) ball bearings. And, there you have it. I am told by users that it stays in place, even when rolling; and it is never permanently attached. You may want to give it a try.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It has been a "business" kind of week, not my favorite kind. I gave final exams, I testified in Federal Court (against the USA) in a malpractice case and am now mired down in calculating final grades using a system clearly not of my design. So, this morning, I took time to diddle with an image I took the other day while walking Sir Ansel. It is the spot on the river I have photographed and posted many times before. On this day the light was very nice, so I clicked off an exposure.A pleasant, but not spectacular image was the result. I over-saturated the greens and yellow in PhotoShop and desaturated the entire image. Adjusting brightness and contrast resulted in this image:
It's okay, and not every image is a Rembrandt. Anyway, back to the college to straighten out the grades.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Now You See It...
Now You Don't
I spent many years sailing my 42 foot Hans Christian cutter on Lake Michigan. I visited many ports and did many single-handed crossings. On every one of these passages I had a complete set of charts aboard and studied each before going near shore or a new port. Still, that wasn't enough. I also utilized one of a sailor's most valuable source of navigational info: local knowledge.

No one knew the waters of a certain area better than those who lived and sailed them frequently. Lake levels varied considerably during those years, and local skippers were more than willing to let me know that over there the rocks will tear your bottom out. The charts, admittedly not updated, showed plenty of clearance over those rocks; but the lake was down, and my boat drew six feet of water.

Around Milwaukee, I have the local knowledge. I know where the hazards are hiding. I know how, when the wind blows from the NE, the lake gets deeper here at the southern end and rocks that were visible hide under a few inches of water. I know where a mild surge will play the "now you see it, now you don't" game with obstructions; and I stay the hell away from there.

If you are fortunate enough to have the time and means to pry new waters, I highly recommend you have a cup of coffee where the local skippers hang out. They love to tell stories (like mine, many are true) and willing to share information. The shortest distance between you and your next take out may be a straight line, but a straight line may not be the safest route.

Paddle safe...

Monday, December 14, 2009

It Is Still Cold Outside.....
and now it is dreary as well
Time for my annual post of Sherri dragging her boat away from Lake Michigan. It some how personifies the drudgery of winter, short days, lethargy and often clouded skies. Still......there is beauty to be found. Not all the frost is on the pumpkins.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Have You Been Naughty or Nice?You know, there is a Santa. In fact, I know him on a first name basis, and here's a pic I took to prove it. Thing is, he isn't too happy with some of the behavior he is seeing out there. "They don't always wear their pfds," is a common complaint I hear from him. He is also saddened and upset that, "...they don't practice their rescues in conditions, and they don't ask me for the right equipment to be put in their stockings."

So, consider y0urself warned. Santa isn't going to give naughty boys and girls a new composite boat if they aren't behaving properly while out on the water. It's not that he is mean. It's just that he wants all his children to be do I. You've been warned. Now go write your letters to old Santa.

(BTW, my first gift will arrive on the18th when UPS has scheduled to return my dry suit from Kokatat)

Paddle safe...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside
With temps and chill factors at 0 degrees F. and lower (not to mention that my dry suit is at Kokatat), most of us are pretty much off the lake as it lets off steam. At least its heat has moderated temps near shore, but the wind has been blowing causing chill factors that cut to the bone. Best idea seems to be to find a nice warm pool andrelax.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If At don't succeed......try...
...try......and try,......again!

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

For ever, it seems, mankind has been obsessed with the nude body. Elegant in its shapes and curves, its natural beauty has made the nude a favorite subject for painters and photographers. Often lacking color, black and white fine art photographers have attempted to capture the subtleties of natures design by various lighting techniques. Free of the glitz of clothes, make up and jewelery, nature's pure design is unveiled. And, so, free of their bright flashy fall colors I offer the elegance of these two nudes.

Paddle safe...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Pool Rools
Okay, it's that time, and many of us are headed to the pool for sessions. For some, it will be their first in a kayak in an indoor pool. What, they ask, are the rules? Do the basics still apply? Is it like being on the big lake or the ocean, or do we need a whole new set of guidelines? Well, fear not. Once again, I am supplying that info for you with our annual review of pool rools.

1. Check with the other to see what marine channel you need to monitor. Many pools do not use Channel 16 any more.
2. Don't forget sunscreen. Many pools have fluorescent lights which emit UV rays.
3. Wash your boat. We don't want invasive species in our pools. (Report giant carp sightings to the life guard).
4. Helmets aren't a bad idea, especially if you plan to surf. The indoor "beach" can be quite hard.
5. You can bring a race boat, but don't plan on any endurance races.
6. While hypothermia is less likely indoors, many pool accidents are due to inattentiveness in such a confined space. So get out of your boat to ogle the gals in their bikinis at the other end of the pool.
7. If you use a skin on frame which you cannot easily wet exit, ask someone to keep an eye on you. How embarrassing would it be to survive force 5 conditions only to drown in a pool?
8. In pool kayaking one washes before the paddle and will be amazingly cleaner after.
9. Check the weather forecast ahead of launching.
10. Don't over pack your kit. You're going to have to carry all that stuff into the pool.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

I've Been Thinking About It...
...and sometime soon, I'm going to post something on procrastination.

Paddle safe...

Friday, December 04, 2009

54...So Far
Living in a metropolitan area where the winters can be harsh and the waters ice laden, I've still managed to get into a floating kayak 54 times so far this year. To be sure, that includes days at symposiums and pool sessions; still, being retired has allowed me lots of paddle opportunities.

I am too lazy to check my log to see what percentage of those paddles were solo events, but I suspect they are about half (I don't know other retired paddlers). When the spirit moves me and I am free, I paddle. Many of these solo outings are only an hour or so in duration. I usually don't go anywhere but, instead, practice strokes, braces and the like.

All this butt-in-the-boat-time has made me comfortable with my Romany. Now, however, I am in the Cetus and on a new learning curve. There are lots of differences between the two, some subtle and some not. Rolling takes a little more concentration and timing. My re entry roll results in me falling out as I am not "locked" into the cockpit the same as in the Romany. Finally, and most important, I need to practice controlling the Cetus and am waiting for the skeg fix to really get out there.

In any event, there are over 3 weeks left in the year which should allow me to get into the pool a few more times and, hopefully out onto the lake.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Getting ready...
Physically and Mentally

It may soon look like this where we paddle, and I am not yet prepared for same. My dry suit is at Kokatat for testing and repairs. I need to get my new Cetus properly outfitted, and that will take at least until Christmas time when I will be getting the skeg control sorted out. Preparing mentally, now that's another story.

I noticed that the past few days when I walked Ansel near or before sunrise, I overdressed for the cold. I would check and, seeing the temps dipping into the 30'sF, would put on too many layers of fleece. That tells me I am dreading the cold on these old bones. On the other hand, it is reassuring to know that one can dress properly when it really gets cold. In actuality, we usually aren't out there when temps or chill factors are much below freezing, but sometimes we are.

Meanwhile, I have added weight training (nothing dramatic) to my gym visits and am trying to increase my aerobic capacity. I know I will do more sitting and reading during the winter and not be up and about as much as usual. During my recent bout with a sleep disorder I packed on 8+ pounds which are just now starting to go back to where they came from ( he said, ending the sentence with a preposition). It doesn't get easier as I get older.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I Don't Get It
I know something about physiology...heck, I teach it. Besides, I'm a physician with more than a little experience in exercise physiology and sports medicine. Nevertheless, I don't see how I can paddle hard all summer, go out in big stuff, get thrown out of my boat, get rescued, rescue someone else, tow another kayak to shore and feel just fine the next day.

But one evening in the pool--make that just a few hours in the pool--and I wake the next day crippled, stiff and hurting.

It must be something they put in the water...besides me and my boat.

Paddle safe...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pro v. Schmo
Yesterday, I took the Cetus to the pool session. As it turned out, Sherri Mertz and I were the only sea kayakers (although she was in a white water boat...which I tried out later). I was there to roll and scull and brace and to see how the new boat behaved when tipped over.
It rolled well enough, albeit finishing a tad slower than the Romany. Sculling was no problem. I could not re enter and roll as I kept falling out of the cockpit. Sherri pointed out how I fit differently into the boat than into the Romany and how I would have to adjust things. I did blow some rolls, and it reminded me of my very first rolling lesson. The teacher told me I was lifting my head, and I said I was not. He then showed me a video of me rolling, and I was lifting my head (the schmo).
Ever the eagle eye, Sherri caught me doing the same yesterday. The difference was that I knew I had lifted my head (the pro), even as I realized the flash was going off and the ignoble moment was being frozen in time.
It was a worthwhile session. I was disappointed to find lots of water in the rear hatch as I felt I had sealed it properly. Maybe I didn't. I also noticed that the relief valve between the forward hatch and the cockpit is not doing its job, and I must burp the sucker every now and then.

Next time, I am taking a skin on frame to the pool.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks...For EverythingEspecially Family
I begin everyday by saying, "thank you." Hey, at my age, it is wonderful just to wake up on the right side of the grass. Much more than that, I live a blessed life. I have had reasonably good health,I can still get into (and with some help out of) a kayak and I can hold my own in rough stuff. I can roll with a Greenland stick, and I can walk without mechanical assistance. But more than anything I own or can do, I am blessed with a wonderful family.

I am reminded of this even more as they all gather here for thanksgiving. Our usually quiet and orderly home is coming alive with voices, the chatter of a grand son and the squeaking of our grand daughter. Tupper ware and toys are scattered about the kitchen floor. My daughters and the wonderful men they've married will soon be talking, arguing, yelling and laughing; and I will be watching, listening and smiling from my heart for the gift of it all.

To all my country men (for whom this is Thanksgiving Day) and all my brothers and sisters around the world, I wish you as much. No kayak, or even a pot of gold, is near so valuable as the love of family and sense of community. Peace.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winter Paddling
It's Not For Everyone
We have had a mild season and, with Thanksgiving just a few days off, we are supposed to get our first lick of snow tomorrow. Some of us will ski, cross country ski and/or snow shoe in order to make the best of the situation. Still, many of us will also continue to paddle whenever the ice allows us to safely get onto and off the big lake. On the other hand, some of our friends will be stowing all their paddling equipment, disappear from the water (until spring) and only show up for coffee.

We all know the inherent risks in kayaking, sea kayaking on large bodies of water in particular. Those risks, along with the need to rely on one's self (and, to an extent, others), is what brings on that delicious tightness in the gut when things get dicey. As I've written before, there are two types of sports.

One type includes team games, and satisfaction generally comes from winning (although all good competitors take pride in their performances). There is little risk in bowling, and basketball is pointless unless there is the other side to play against.

The other type, often done by individuals, offers satisfaction to those willing to take risks. There is no one to triumph over, only one's fears, the environment and our perception of our limitations. Climbing and kayaking are two that come to mind. Having said all that, the risk and the potential satisfaction of sea kayaking, is upped in winter. Ice and the always present risk of hypothermia add to what is already an individual risk-taking sport.

It goes without saying that the sensible paddler who chooses to go out in winter must have a greater sense of his or her skills and ability to take care of themselves. Doing a leisurely T rescue with a friend in summer becomes an entirely different story when someone comes out of their boat in 3-4 foot waves and into near-freezing water. At times such as those, each individual must know their stuff and be able to get it right and get it right fast. I am guessing that knowing this and deciding the risk is not worth it is what keeps some folks ashore during the short days of winter.

I respect that decision. Knowing one's limits and choosing not to put themselves or others at risk makes them, in my eyes, a good paddler. Hopefully, some will use the "regular season" to compile and practice their skills, get the gut feeling to step up the challenge and maybe even join us next winter. Meanwhile, we'll see you over coffee as we thaw out.

Paddle safe...

Monday, November 23, 2009

We Remember
Doug Winter, R.I.P.

Yesterday, we paddled together heading south along the shoreline. It was a route we had done so many times before, often with Doug along side. We returned early to gather at the home of Rick and Jennifer
to remember and memorialize Doug. There was, of course, food...but most of the time was spent telling stories and looking at pictures of Doug taken over the years we've known him.Some of us wrote notes that we would like to send to his sister in California.Leslie, an artist (among other skills) had prepared a rock which we will place on the break wall next spring.Doug Winter
When it came time for a group picture, we wondered aloud what we should do. It seems we decided to smile...perhaps to smile at Doug so he would know how fondly he is remembered.We struggled for the right words as we talked, and I think Sue summed it up best when she told us how she would call and e mail Doug to come paddle. He would seldom respond. But when she sent a message that she needed help, Doug was instantly there. That's who he was. That's how I will remember him.

Good bye, friend.

Paddle safe...